Two members of the Lethbridge Police Service have been penalized after an incident involving Alberta’s former environment minister three years ago.
Earlier this month, Keon Woronuk and Jason Carrier admitted to several breaches of the Police Service Regulation.
On April 14, 2017, Shannon Phillips, who is also the MLA for Lethbridge-West, was conducting an informal meeting at Chef Stella, a downtown diner.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Carrier was seated at a nearby table when he overheard Phillips’ conversation about the potential closure of parts of the Castle Park area to make way for a new provincial park.
At that time, Carrier invited Woronuk to join him at Chef Stella. Both men are avid outdoorsmen who frequented the area in question and were against Philips’ ideas.
They subsequently took photos of Phillips and her stakeholders, including a selfie.
After exiting the diner, the men discussed their disdain for Phillips’ proposed actions regarding the park.
The agreed statement said Woronuk told Carrier he would “hate to see Phillips drive away from the restaurant and there was a reason to stop her.”
Woronuk, who has been a member of LPS for 19 years, admits he followed one of the stakeholders instead, in an attempt to catch them committing a driving infraction.
He ran their licence plate and sent a screenshot to Carrier in case he lost track of the vehicle. Woronuk admitted he had no legal right to do so, and Carrier admitted he should have reported the misconduct.
On April 15, 2017, under the alias Mike Corps, Woronuk posted a photo of Phillips and the stakeholders to Facebook, which included a long caption criticizing Phillips and the NDP government.
After learning of the photograph, Phillips filed a complaint with the Police Act, which resulted in an investigation of the Lethbridge Police Service conducted by the Calgary Police Service, which was completed in September 2017.
Woronuk admitted to five counts under the Police Service Regulation and has been demoted from senior constable to first-class constable for two years.
Carrier admitted to discreditable conduct and neglect of duty under the Police Service Regulation and has been demoted from sergeant to senior constable for one year.
Late Monday, Phillips addressed the matter in a news conference via Zoom.
She said she doesn’t believe the officers’ demotions are an appropriate penalty.
“In my view, a mere demotion and still driving around the streets of Lethbridge for having intended to place someone else under surveillance for political reasons and for reasons of political intimidation is a very egregious contravention of the trust we place in officers,” Phillips said.
“It does nothing to make me feel safer in my own community or in my own home.”
The NDP also said Monday it would like this case to be the subject of an out-of-province investigation.
“The concern is we have no particular assurance that this was an isolated incident,” said Kathleen Ganley, the NDP’s justice critic.
“For the sake of public trust and public confidence in the police service, we need to know that this sort of thing isn’t going to happen in the future.”
On Monday night, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer tweeted that he has been made aware of the demotions and that Alberta’s police watchdog has been ordered “to conduct a comprehensive review of the professional standards investigation to determine if there are grounds for a criminal investigation.”
“I have instructed my department to arrange for an out-of-province prosecutor should ASIRT (Alberta Serious Incident Response Team) require legal advice in conducting its investigation, including the determination of laying charges,” he tweeted.
“I share in the outrage being expressed by many following this news.”
Schweitzer added that he was not previously aware of the incident, “nor was the government involved in the professional standards investigation which resulted in the temporary demotion of the two officers involved.”
“To say it is completely unacceptable that members of the police would conduct unauthorized surveillance of any Albertan — in particular an elected official — is an understatement,” he tweeted.
“Law enforcement is entrusted with a great deal of power, so it is particularly egregious when that power is abused.”
Global News reached out to the LPS for comment but has not heard back.
The full decision can be read below: